How Does Microchipping Work?

Microchipping is one of the most important elements of pet reunification. While microchips have incredible potential for getting lost pets home, the chip itself is only one component in a complex system involving microchips, scanners, and registries. With multiple manufacturers offering all three components, it can be confusing to decide which brand to use. We're here to help.


What is a microchip and how does it work?

A microchip is a small device about the size of a grain of rice that is implanted beneath your pet's skin. It contains a unique number used to identify the animal. This number links to your contact information in an online registry that allows shelters, clinics, veterinarians, and humane organizations to contact you if your lost pet is found. The microchip itself does not store your contact information.

What's the difference between a microchip and a GPS or LoJack?

A microchip is not a GPS or tracking device. You cannot get information on a lost pet's location directly from the microchip. It is only when your lost pet is found, scanned, and searched in an online registry that someone will be able to contact you. This is why it is critical to keep your contact information current in an online microchip registry.

My pet already has an ID tag. Do I also need to microchip?

Yes! Your pet should always have a collar with up-to-date license and identification tags. However, when collars and tags are damaged or lost, the microchip is your pet's only form of permanent identification.

I want to get my pet microchipped. Where can I go?

Many municipal shelters, clinics, veterinarians, and humane organizations offer microchipping; some even provide low-cost clinics and walk-in services. Call facilities in your area to determine which services are offered.

How much does a microchip cost?

The price of microchipping services can vary from $10 to $75 or more. Some providers also offer free microchipping when your pet is spayed or neutered. Call facilities in your area for pricing details. If you're in the Los Angeles area, Adopt & Shop and SNPLA offer low-cost microchipping.

Does a microchip hurt?

Implanting a microchip is essentially the same as administering a vaccine. While your pet may feel a little pinch, any pain should be over very quickly. No anesthesia is required. Once the microchip has been inserted, your pet won't even know it's there.

My pet has been microchipped. Now what?

After your pet is microchipped, it is essential to register in an online microchip registry, such as the Found Animals Microchip Registry. Remember, a microchip is not a GPS; the microchip number must be linked to your contact information. For more information , please visit the Pet Owner / Rescue FAQs.

How do I know if my pet's microchip is registered?

To find out if and where your pet's microchip is registered, visit AAHA's microchip lookup.

What is a microchip frequency?

A microchip frequency refers to the type of signal emitted by a scanner in order to activate and read the microchip. There are three microchip frequencies in the United States: 125 kHz, 128 kHz, and 134.2 kHz. 134.2 kHz is the ISO (International Standards Organization) standard and is the primary frequency used worldwide. The AVMA also recommends the 134.2 kHz frequency.

Does it matter what type of scanner is used to read a microchip?

It is essential that any organization scanning animals uses a universal scanner in order to read all three microchip frequencies distributed in the United States. Any shelter, rescue group, clinic, veterinarian, or humane organization not using a universal scanner will miss microchips, making it harder for lost pets to reunite with their families. For information on low-cost universal scanners, contact us.

What are the most common microchip brands and how can I contact them?

Manufacturer Telephone Number Website
24PetWatch 1-866-597-2424
AKC 1-800-252-7894
AVID 1-800-336-2843
Banfield 1-877-567-8738
Bayer resQ 1-877-738-5465
HomeAgain 1-888-466-3242

Register any brand of microchip for free!

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